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Talking about noticing something, do both mean the same?

For example:

  • I just figured out that the ball is blue.
  • I just realized that the ball is blue.
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What did you find in a dictionary? Realise | Figure out -- it looks like those definitions could overlap to some extent, even if they are not entirely synonymous. Perhaps you could show your own research. –  Andrew Leach Dec 8 '12 at 0:05
@Andrew: The definitions only overlap insofar as in both cases you end up being aware of something. But it seems to me it's General Reference that you always have to make a mental effort to figure something out, whereas realise normally carries no such implication of "directed effort" (in fact, realisation often comes completely out of the blue). –  FumbleFingers Dec 8 '12 at 0:12
@F Yes, I'm happy that it's General Reference too. The definitions explain exactly what you have enunciated. In the absence of anything more in the question, a single link to a reference work suffices. –  Andrew Leach Dec 8 '12 at 0:16
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closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, Andrew Leach, Robusto, MετάEd, tchrist Dec 8 '12 at 6:00

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

1 Answer

No. They are substantially different.

To realize, in the sense of coming to a conclusion (and not as in to bring into reality, which is akin to inventing something), means to comprehend something completely.

The act of figuring out is the act of finding a solution to a problem.

Realization usually happens unexpectedly, as if by magic. One minute your mind wanders, and then you see something in a new light. In that sense, it's a passive occurrence.

Figuring something out, on the other hand, takes effort, and is normally done with a specific goal in mind.

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I agree. Realizations often come serendipitously, often while doing something not directly related to the question at hand. Figuring out something implies a conscious effort to calculate/investigate/study a matter and actively search for the answer. I may realize that the Israel-Palestine conflict is not easily solvable while watching the news and reading articles (it just "clicks" in the head); on the other hand, I figure out what's wrong with my car by methodically going through a checklist of potential issues and eliminating each one systematically. –  narx Dec 8 '12 at 0:24
Are they both factive? I.e, can you say He figured out that the moon is made of green cheese? You can't say *He realized that the moon is made of green cheese because realize is factive and presupposes its complement. Does figure out? –  John Lawler Dec 8 '12 at 1:14
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